Do you create lists of things you’d like to do around your house only to find those crumpled pieces of paper in coat pockets months later with nothing checked off? You’re not alone; thousands of Canadian homeowners are just like you.
It’s time to break this cycle. This Winter Maintenance Checklist includes important projects you should do now to significantly improve your family’s health and safety, protect your home from damaging spring floodwaters and save you money.
Seal Air Leaks
Windows: Drafty areas near windows and doors can be significantly reduced by installing clear plastic window insulation. Brand name products are available in a variety of sizes at most hardware retailers. The clear film will also help reduce condensation build-up on the glass.
Doors: Install or replace rubber weatherstripping and door sweep. Door snakes or a rolled up towel placed along the bottom of the door will provide even more protection from air leakage.
Electrical and Cable Outlets: Expanding spray insulating foam or fiberglass insulation can be applied around each junction box opening to fill gaps. Neoprene foam strips are also available and can be installed behind outlet covers to provide an excellent air barrier.
Dryer Vent: First-floor and basement laundry exhaust vents are often sources of air leaks. Seal gaps with expandable liquid foam or caulk.
Foundation Walls: The area between the top of the concrete and framed walls should be checked for leaks from the inside. If you can see light from the outside, seal the areas with caulk or foam.
Basement Windows: Replace broken or missing glass or install rigid foam insulation over the opening. Be sure to also caulk any gaps around the frame.
Increase Heating Efficiency and Safety
Furnace or Boiler: Invest in a winter service call by a licensed professional. The visit will include: a system check for leaks and cracks, combustion chamber cleaning, flue pipe corrosion check, damper adjustment, filter replacement, blower belt adjustment or replacement, and igniter test.
Exhaust Vents: Don’t let snow accumulate to block exhaust vents. Safety features on your equipment will shut it down if the carbon monoxide can’t be removed.
Portable Heaters: Understand the difference between indoor-safe and outdoor-only propane heaters. It’s critical to recognize the risk of using outdoor heaters indoors – doing so could result in carbon monoxide poisoning or death. Garages, sheds and workspaces should be well ventilated when using this type of heat source. Be cautious with electric heaters as well – don’t operate them near flammable materials or leave them unattended.
Fireplace or Woodstove: Check the door gasket for a tight seal. Clean and inspect the glass door for cracks; replace if necessary. Have your chimney cleaned by a professional chimney sweep to remove creosote buildup and reduce the risk of a chimney fire.
Manage Basement Maintenance
Sump Pump: Experts at Royal Work Corp. indicate that the sump pump is the most powerful defense in basement waterproofing, so it’s extremely important that this appliance is functioning properly. Rain and snow melt will saturate the ground around and below your home’s foundation. In addition, hydrostatic pressure builds up against concrete walls and can overwork your drainage system. Your sump pump is designed to relieve this pressure by pumping excess water up and safely away from your home. Pour several buckets of water into the pit to activate the pump and check its operation. A battery back-up unit will ensure it continues to function during storm-related power outages too.
Leaks and Cracks: Hydrostatic pressure, settling and the freeze-thaw cycle can all contribute to basement leaks and cracks. While many of these won’t cause a problem, cracks with water infiltration can worsen and result in basement flooding. Mold can begin to grow within 48 hours of flooding and create potential health risks for you and your family. Repair leaks now with plastic injection tubes, polyurethane and fast-curing epoxy. You can also apply concrete coatings, sealers, paints and panels to provide optimum waterproofing coverage.
Attic area: Insufficient insulation will allow too much heat to escape from the main house. This will not only increase your heating bills but also melt snow and ice on your roof. Ice dams can occur with refreezing and lead to damaging leaks. Batt insulation can be installed across the ceiling joists or loose fill can be blown in on top of the existing insulation to improve the R-value. Make sure soffit vents remain unobstructed to allow sufficient air flow.
Attic access door: This opening is often uninsulated and a major source of air leaks. Glue a thick, polystyrene foam panel (not blanket insulation) to the back of the door. Self-adhesive foam weatherstripping should then be applied around the perimeter of the door opening to create a tight seal.
Walls: Insulation in older homes may have settled making it less effective as a barrier to cold winter temperatures. Both loose fill and foam insulation can be blown into the wall cavities through drywall holes and are effective for significantly increasing R-values.
Basement: The interior of foundation walls can be insulated to reduce heating costs and improve comfort levels. Fiberglass insulation should not be used against the concrete walls as it will trap moisture and cause mold issues. Use closed cell spray foam or closed cell XPS foam board for a finished space or strap extruded polystyrene to the face of unfinished foundation walls. In either case, be sure to repair any leaks or cracks before installing insulation.
Pipes: Cover basement cold water pipes with foam insulation to prevent condensation drips.
Hot water heater: Improve energy efficiency by installing an inexpensive pre-cut jacket or blanket.
It’s not too late for you to improve the efficiency, comfort and safety in your home. With a couple months of harsh Canadian winter conditions still ahead, completing this maintenance checklist now will keep your home and family protected no matter what Mother Nature has in store.